King Buffet Proves That Hollywood is Hungry For AYCE Chinese

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When I moved from Boston to Los Angeles in 2004 the change was predictably jarring.  The weather?  Amazing.  People smiling? That’s crazy pants.  And the movie theater in Los Feliz?  Packed on a Tuesday at 2pm.  I love this town.  But there was one negative thing that loomed large in my stomach’s subconscious.  The lack of all you can eat Chinese buffets.  It may surprise you to learn that Boston has a ton of all you can eat Chinese buffets. It’s probably less surprising for you to learn that I really loved those buffets.  And moving here left a giant hole in my all-you-can-eat loving heart.  (Moving here also led to an immediate loss of 10 pounds; a coincidence, this is not.)

So when I read last month on Eater that a new Chinese food buffet had opened up on Western just south of Sunset (around the corner from where I used to live!!!) I got pretty excited.  The early word on Yelp sounded pretty bad, but clearly I needed to check it out for myself.  You know… for science.

I knew the second I pulled into the King’s Buffet parking lot that things were going to be alright.  It was packed.  And we’re not talking some little strip mall situation.  We’re talking full on parking lot, with at least 30 spaces, completely filled.  And this place has only been open a month?  Yelp be damned…?

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And only $8 for lunch! Are you joking?  Game on.

Required Reading Before You Continue: For anybody who doesn’t know, eating at an all you can buffet is a game.  To win you must eat more food than you paid for.  The buffet sets the rules of the game, offering a certain selection of food and setting a price that is expensive enough to make it difficult to win (after all, they have to make money to stay open), but cheap enough that you are still enticed into playing the game.  $8 is a tough price, because on the surface it might seem easier to win the game.  But because it’s only $8, the buffet might hold back on some of the big money items.  The things that make winning easier, like shrimp, crab legs, quality sushi and meats. Fancy Vegas buffets go in the opposite direction.  They give you all those fancy items, but then charge you upwards of $30- making it that much harder to win the game.  The trick is finding a good balance between price and quality, and if I learned anything from the movie War Games it’s that in all games, strategy is essential.  For more on that you should probably read the Midtown Lunch Guide to Beating the All You Can Eat Buffet. It was written almost 4 years ago, but still applies today. I’ll wait.

Got it?  Good.  ”Shall we play a game?”

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If you didn’t figure it out from the parking lot or the name, it’s obvious the second you walk in the door.  King’s Buffet is a super buffet.  Certainly not the largest I’ve ever seen, but with 4 hot food stations, a sushi station, and a full salad/fruit/dessert bar I think it earns the title.

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The selection didn’t blow me away, but there was just enough interesting stuff to make it above average. If you read my buffet guide you know that the first plate is a feeler plate.

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[Clockwise from the top left?] The spring roll was terrible, but the sesame ball with black bean paste was tasty enough (and a nice surprise.)  I love seeing crab rangoons on a buffet (such a great East coast throw back) but these didn’t have crab so you can skip them… unless you love deep fried cream cheese. (I do.)  Underneath that is deep fried octopus, which was surprisingly not terrible.  You can’t expect anything from the sushi bar at an $8 all you can eat buffet, but the tuna and the deep fried roll were worth a taste- but nothing you want to load up on.  The noodles were sub-par, but you shouldn’t be filling up on noodles anyway.  The chicken on a stick was a highlight (maybe highlight is a strong word), as were the potstickers and all the deep fried chicken dishes covered in gloopy sauces.  There were at least 4 different kinds, which is great if you’re a fan. (Shocker: I am.) String beans are healthy, right?  Had to grab a few of those as my token vegetable.  And the plate was finished off with a chunk of fried fish, which was also pretty good, if you don’t picking through the bones.

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For my second plate I got larger servings of some of my favorites, like the coconut chicken (which uses the same creamy sauce as walnut shrimp, just without the walnuts), another chicken on a stick and some potstickers.  I didn’t necessarily love the octopus the first time around, but they were putting out a new container while I was up there so I had to grab some of the fresh stuff.  In fact because the buffet was so crowded, fresh stuff was constantly coming out- a key element to separating the mediocre buffets from the worthwhile.  I also tried some rice and the other noodles (you know for science) and being from Miami I just couldn’t help getting a (surprisingly perfect) fried plantain from the station of things that most Chinese buffets have, but you should usually avoid (chicken fingers, onion rings, french fries, and bread.)

But the biggest mistake of my lunch can be seen in the top right hand corner of my second plate.  Somehow I missed the salt and pepper fried shrimp, with the heads still on, on my first go around.  They were hidden in the corner, on a station that also had desserts on it (did they do this on purpose to throw me off, because it worked!)  Decent size shrimp are a real treat on an $8 buffet and something you need to load up on in order to win the game. (You can separate the pros from the amateurs by the amount of seafood like this on their plates.)  Ideally I would have wanted to try one on my first plate, to test the waters, and then load up on my second plate.  But because I missed it on the first go around, I was forced to test the waters on my second plate, which set me back a bit in my quest to beat the buffet.  So naturally…

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…I had to do a third plate of all shrimp.  I would have liked to have done more, but I had to save room for dessert.

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For me jello is a necessity to finish off any all you can eat Chinese buffet and I’ve yet to hit up one that has let me down. This one also had chocolate pudding, tapioca pudding, and the chocolate topped cream puff was not stale (all you can really hope for in these situations.)

All in all a very successful trip. Of course if you go by standards of basic taste, there is a lot to complain about. And even as under $10 Chinese buffets go, this one is certainly not great. Some of the seafood stuff I wouldn’t touch if you paid me, the dumpling selection could have been better, and none of the rice or noodle dishes were particularly good. But if you like your buffet with 5 different permutations of General Tso/Orange/Honey/Lemon/Walnut chicken, you’ll be pleased with their selection. Plus there was actually enough good stuff to make me want to go back for a second and third plate, and it has just enough of the big money items (I’m looking at you fried shrimps) to make beating the $8 mark a fairly easy task.

Oh, and it’s pretty much the only buffet like this I’ve found anywhere between Downtown L.A. and Santa Monica. In other words, this is a game I will most definitely play again.

THE +

  • I love all you can eat Chinese food buffets, and this is pretty much the only way in the area
  • It’s packed during lunch, so the food turnover is great
  • It’s only $8 but still has a sushi station?  That’s crazy.
  • I love gloopy sauced Chinese food, and this buffet has like 5 different versions of the stuff!
  • Love some of the slightly more authentic Chinese food stuff, like sesame ball with black bean paste and fried shrimp with the heads still on.
  • There’s a decent amount of seafood, making the game that much easier to win

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • None of the food is actually good, it’s all mostly mediocre
  • You can even make a decent fried rice? WTF
  • If this buffet was in Boston or Texas it would be considered terrible!
  • Do you really want to eat sushi off a buffet that only costs $8?  I’d rather pay more and get better quality food
  • The number of fat people eating at King’s Buffet depresses me
  • There are way better Chinese buffets to the south and to the east of L.A.

King Buffet, 1375 Western Ave

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1 Comment

  • The perfect sequel to Zach’s ML Guide to Beating AYCE. The premise for this piece, an experienced food warrior’s encounter with an East Coast monstrosity of temptation that has somehow been ported to LA, is hilarious in itself. But the, “Hey, wait, I’m serious!” part had me on the floor.

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